Rangi Spo' />

A senior Maori guardian of a Hawke's Bay customary food gathering area is facing charges after allegedly misleading fisheries officers.

Rangi Spooner, 53, of Napier, is the kaitiaki, or guardian, for the area between Napier and Waikare River.

Spooner's Government-appointed position allows him to issue customary fishing permits.

The Dominion Post reported that the Fisheries Ministry said Spooner issued a permit to David Rotarangi, 45, and Jason Brown, 29, allowing them to fish on November 6 and 7.

However, fisheries officers discovered the men on November 8 at Clifton, south of Napier, allegedly with extra seafood - much of it undersized - and the permit altered to include the extra day.

The men told the officers they had called Spooner that morning and had altered the permit with his verbal permission.

It was alleged Spooner told the officers he had taken the call and given the men permission to alter the permit.

However, phone records showed no such call was made.

Fisheries officers said Rotarangi and Brown were found with 59 rock lobster, 51 of which were undersized, and 384 kina.

Customary permits allow holders to exceed the usual daily catch limits, and to catch undersized fish, but because the permit was considered void, the usual catch and size limits applied. Recreational fishers are allowed to take up to 50 kina and six rock lobster per day.

The boat was seized and the fish returned to the sea.

The three men were jointly charged with obstructing a fisheries officer while in the execution of his duty and for making a false or misleading statement to fisheries officers.

Rotarangi and Brown also face charges of taking excess and undersize rock lobster and excess kina. They appeared in Hastings District Court last week and were remanded without plea until next month.

- NZPA